Entertainment startup Spaces takes players out of this world at Century 20 Oakridge.
I spent part of my morning this week blasting apart killer robots in an apocalyptic, future Los Angeles — honestly it still looks like some parts of current L.A. — and saving the world from its inevitable doom. Now that should look good on my annual review, I figured.
But then I had to take off the virtual-reality goggles I was wearing and stepped back into the real world, which happened to be Cinemark’s Century 20 theaters at Oakridge Mall in San Jose. I had just gone through “Terminator Salvation: Fight for the Future,” an immersive virtual reality experience that opens to the public Friday. I’m not a VR newbie, but this was a whole different level — imagine Disneyland creating a first-person shooter game.
Virtual reality backpacks and goggles are part of the equipment in Spaces’<br />new virtual reality experience “Terminator Salvation: Fight for the<br />Future,” which opens at the Century 20 at Oakridge Mall in San Jose on<br />Friday, Feb. 8, 2017. (Sal Pizarro/Bay Area News Group)
Players — you can go in as part of a team of four — have their faces scanned before they start so their in-game avatars look just like them, except more, you know, robotic. They’re outfitted with an adjustable HP backpack and Oculus VR headset, along with haptic sensors on your hands and feet. After your headset is on, you move into the animated game area, which includes some physical props, too. To be honest, it was disorienting for the first few minutes, which I spent mostly looking around at the virtual world.
After players get their VR legs, they’re handed their “blasters” and sent off on a mission. The whole thing lasts about 30 minutes — including time for a “mission briefing” and getting equipment on — but it flies by so fast you’ll be happy to watch the video of your game outside and compare scores. Anthony Jacobson — COO of Spaces, the VR/entertainment firm behind the experience — has gone through the game hundreds of times. He was on my team for that first game and said he loves to see people come out smiling but a little dazed, still processing the experience.
Spaces had its origins at Dreamworks. That’s where Spaces CEO Shiraz Akmal led a team creating VR attractions for the studio’s properties and eventually spun off the company with Dreamworks’ blessings. Akmal is in San Jose for this week’s launch and said partnering with Cinemark in Silicon Valley was a natural choice for Spaces’ third location, after opening in Irvine and Tokyo last year. “We’re surrounded by the companies that make the equipment we use,” he said. “What better audience could we have?”
The “Terminator” experience is the first “destination” that Spaces has launched, but it has plans for more in the future (including ones where you don’t carry a gun).
The Spaces center is in the Century 20 Oakridge lobby and not in one of the auditoriums, so you can visit without plans to see a movie. Prices range from $19.95 to $29.95 — depending on when you go. Evenings and weekends are higher and the lowest recommended age is 10. Reserving a spot in advance at www.cinemark.com/spaces is recommended, but it’s also possible to join a group as a walk-up.
Page Wallace lies down in a bed of feathers during the annual pre-Valentine’s Day pillow fight, Sunday, Feb. 11, 2018, along the Paseo de San Antonio in downtown San Jose, Calif. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)
LET THE FEATHERS FLY: The ninth annual Feathers of Fury pillow fight, which takes place around Valentine’s Day in downtown San Jose, is set for noon on Feb. 10 at the Paseo de San Antonio in front of the shuttered Camera 12 cinema at 201 S. Second St. San Jose Giants mascot Gigante is scheduled to be there, and everyone else is encouraged — but not required — to dress in costume. What kind? It could be anything. I saw a guy dressed up as a dinosaur one year.
A “creative party” is planned for 11 a.m., with face painting, pillow decorating and more — and pillows also will be collected for donation to the homeless. Remember, the free-for-all is “bring your own pillow” and don’t forget to clean up afterward. You can also follow the fun on social media with the hashtag #PillowFightSJ.